DANVILLE — Sitting in the most revered seat of a courthouse doesn’t preclude Vermilion County Judge Michael Clary from showing a level of respect to legal representatives who come before him, no matter what the case.
From mothers or fathers losing their parental rights to defendants convicted of heinous crimes, Clary said he makes it a point to look the person in the eye when handing down his final decision.
“It can be very difficult,” he said. “I’ve always felt over the years they were entitled to me looking them in the eye and say this is your sentence or say the state has proved their case, your parent rights are terminated.
“It’s easier not to look them in the eye and maybe make that pronouncement some other way, but I feel that in those particular situations if there’s a person and I’m going to sentence them in my courtroom I need to look them in the eye when I tell them that,” he said.
“I think it’s their life, they’re entitled to it.”
Clary, after 34 years working in the local legal community, confirmed he has decided to step down from the bench effective Oct. 31. He has served as presiding circuit judge in the Vermilion County Circuit Court for the last four years.
Hired by the Vermilion County State’s Attorney’s Office in 1979, Clary’s career has run the gamut from assistant prosecutor to private practice attorney before running in the 1988 election for the office of state’s attorney. A failed bid was followed in 1992 with Clary successfully being elected as the county’s chief prosecutor.
Clary said his mind focused mainly on the job at hand as he considered the 1990s a more violent time than today, with a total of 36 people charged with first-degree murder during his six years as state’s attorney.